I have been treated to a really fantastic first gay pride weekend here in Amsterdam. My friend Huw invited me to join him on his friend’s boat for an unparalleled view of the parade, which (this being Amsterdam after all) is completely on boats, making their way through the canals. After the parade, we met up with Xavier and several new friends for a night of drinks and dancing which ended at about 5am this morning. We grabbed a few hours worth of shut-eye and then had a relaxing picnic in the park with a group of about 17, including just about everyone I know here. One of the things I have found to be so great about Amsterdam is how much more seems to happen in groups here, and how open-hearted and friendly everyone seems to be. My friends have been trying to convince me that I ought to move here, and I have to admit to be very tempted indeed by the treatment I have been receiving. Amsterdam is really one of my favorite cities anywhere.
I am in Amsterdam at the moment for a week’s vacation and having a fantastic time. Everyone is so friendly and warm, I always feel more welcome here than just about any other city I know. Yesterday, my friends Stijn and Alexa invited me for a a little tour of Amsterdam on their boat. I have taken a couple of official boats tours before, but they could really not compare to this. Stijn really knows the inns and outs of the canals having lived here for so long, and we had a lazy day of great conversation, snacks, drinks, sunshine and a little swimming. About halfway through we picked up Huw for lunch and then made our way back to the docks, where we said our goodbyes to Stijn and Alexa and took the tram to the center to check out the Drag Queen Olympics, which are part of the Gay Pride celebrations in Amsterdam this weekend.
Today turned out to be pretty Jewy in Amsterdam. First we went to the Portuguese Synagogue, a beautiful old building and (according to what they told us) the oldest functioning synagogue in all of Europe, built in 1639. It has a pretty fascinating history, especially in that it was founded by Marranos more than 100 years after their families had been forcibly converted to Catholicism. After that we went to the Hollondesche Schouwburg Museum, which was an old theater that had been used as the central place for collecting and deporting the thousands upon thousands of Jews to the concentration camps. Not content with the heavy heart that one left us with, we went to take in the immensely detailed exhibits of the Resistance Museum, a fascinating but exhausting place. I suppose if it had not been rather cold and rainy today, we might have enjoyed a coffee on a lovely sun drenched terrace. Instead, we looked directly into dark and disturbing corners of humanity.
From AMS 14 deux
Due to the vagaries of price and scheduling, Josh and I have stopped back in AMS for a couple of days before our return to NYC. Amsterdam, though always lovely, greeted us with some 30 less degrees than we left in Marrakech, and a driving rain. But we were very much warmed by the wonderful welcome of Xavier and Huw, who we are staying with, and the fantastic Indonesian meal we enjoyed last night not far from their place. And after dinner, we met up with a very fun friend of theirs named Erin, and all went to sample some Dutch spirits at a pub across the street. I am no fan of gin, but the Dutch variety we tried last night (called Jenever) was delicious.
Today I had a lovely walk around town with my new friend Kasia. We saw some cool new architecture (the gorgeous EYE institut, for example) and took a nice long stroll through older parts of the city ending up in the Vondelpark for a drink. After that, we met up with Xavier, Matteo and Huw to attend a protest against Putin who was visiting Amsterdam today. (In case you weren’t aware, Russia has been passing some pretty repressive laws recently regarding gay people). We followed our important (but rather easy) activism with a lovely dinner and walk back to the apartment. I have had such a fantastic time here, connecting with old friends and making new ones, I am really looking forward to coming back soon.
Amsterdam has always been one of my favorite cities, not just for the beautiful architecture, but also for the easy going people. I have been really fortunate while here to be staying with my friend Xavier, who has been an amazing host and who has such wonderful friends. I haven’t gone out this much in quite a while, but that is what vacations are about, right? Last night we went for truly delicious Indonesian food (they used to be a Dutch colony, so it is everywhere here) and got caught up with my old friend Stijn and his lovely girlfriend, then bid them goodbye and headed out to some dance club called Spellbound. The music wasn’t that great, but the crowd and group we were with were a lot of fun, and we stayed out until 4am. I am a little slow going today as a result, but not too worse for the wear. We have been taking it easy, biking around the city and hanging out.